How can Clementina sell mangoes at the market and write a paper for English class?

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Would anyone buy Clementina's mangoes?Clementina threw back the shutters to let in the cool morning Caribbean air. Then she shook her head. “I can’t go to market today, Mama. I have a paper to write for English class.”

Mama pushed herself onto one elbow and frowned. “You’re smart enough to sell mangoes and write a paper, both.”

“But, Mama . . . ”

“Don’t make a fuss. Here’s your mama sick and your papa out fishing. We need eggs and flour, and for that we need money. Your writing will come while you sell mangoes, don’t worry.”

Clementina mumbled, “Yes, Mama,” then grabbed her notebook and slipped out the door. While she carried the bulging mango basket to the road she wondered about her paper.

“Write a how-to paper,” her teacher had said. “Write about something you do really well.” Clementina sighed. How about “How to pick mangoes”? What else did she know how to do well?

Clementina peered up the road for the bus. Already the clouds shone pink and gold with morning sun. She hoped she wasn't too late to claim Mama's favorite spot by the market steps.

Soon a brightly painted bus loaded with coconuts, bananas, and bulging baskets swerved around the bend. Clementina waved her arm and stepped back as the driver screeched to a stop. She handed her basket to the man on the roof and gave her last coins to the driver.

Inside, the reggae music was blasting so loudly that Clementina couldn’t think. She swayed to the beat as she watched the green jungle and banana plantations of Saint Lucia whiz by. From the hills above the city of Castries, Clementina looked down on the brightly colored houses and the shimmering Caribbean Sea. A fleet of sailboats lay anchored in the harbor. Tourists! thought Clementina. They will probably swarm all over the market with their cameras, and not buy a thing.

At the end of the bus line Clementina stood with the other women, waiting for their bags and baskets to be taken down from the roof-rack.

“Up there! That be mine. Hand it here, man,” a woman shouted.

Clementina lifted her own heavy basket to her shoulder and set off for Mama’s spot in the open market.

Heat rose from the sidewalk bringing smells of fruit that was overripe and rotting. Clementina wrinkled her nose. She wound her way past piles of plantains, egg-plants, papayas, and cabbages. But mainly she passed mangoes.

Mangoes were everywhere—stacked on top of one another, rolling in the gutters, overflowing baskets and buckets. Who would want to buy her mangoes, when everybody was selling them?

As she neared the front gates of the Castries Central Market, her aunt Fortuna called out, “Morning, Clementina. Your mama coming?”

Clementina lowered the basket to the concrete and said, “No, Auntie. She’s sick today. I’m here for her.”

“You’d best share my umbrella, child. Going to be hot today.”

Clementina nodded and pulled the plastic sheet off the basket. The scent of ripe mangoes filled the air. Fortuna stared at the fruit and clicked her tongue. “You got some selling to do, Clementina. They’ll only be good for the gutter tomorrow.”

Clementina sighed, knowing Fortuna was right. Everyone else had nice hard green mangoes. She fought back tears as she arranged the red and yellow fruits into tidy piles on the plastic sheeting. Then she sat on the upturned basket and waited for her customers.

As the sun rose higher, Clementina’s spirits sagged lower. All morning she had sold only two mangoes. That wouldn’t even cover her bus fare home. She was too worried to think about her English paper.

People came and went from the bakery across the street, but Clementina didn’t have any money to buy lunch. Instead, she picked out a plump gold-red mango. She stood it on end and cut two sections of fruit from the seed.

“Always wondered how to do that.”

Clementina looked up at the pale tourist with his floppy hat and white, cream-covered nose. “Watch,” she said. She placed one of the curved mango slices in her palm and scored it gently without cutting its skin. Then she put her fingers under the fruit, thumbs on top, and pushed it inside out. Up popped luscious cubes of golden fruit. “Like a mango city,” said Clementina, smiling.

“That’s incredible!” laughed the man. “And it’s ready to eat now? Just like that?”

Clementina handed him the cut fruit. “Try it,” she said. Then she started scoring the other half.

“Sure looks easy,” said the man between mouthfuls of mango. “I wonder if I could teach my friends how to do it.”

He stared at the piles of mangoes, then reached into his pocket. When he offered a rumpled bill to Clementina she shook her head, and said, “I got no change for that.”

The man smiled, still offering the money. “I’m on charter here,” he said. “Six boatloads of hungry people. I’d like to buy all your mangoes.”

Clementina felt her cheeks flush with excitement. Sell all her mangoes? Her mouth pulled back in a big grin.

While the man placed the ripe fruits into his shopping bags, he mumbled, “Hope I can remember how to cut them.”

Clementina thought a moment, then laughed. Maybe Mama was right. She was smart enough to sell mangoes and write her paper, both!

“You wait just a minute,” she said to the man. She opened her notebook and carefully wrote: “How to Carve a Mango City.”


You Can Carve a Mango City
If you buy a mango from the supermarket, let it ripen for a few days before you cut it.

  1. Cut a slice of mango.
  2. Make shallow cuts in the meat without breaking the skin.
  3. Push the slice inside out.
  4. Enjoy!
  You can carve a mango city!